Iran’s Elections Could Complicate U.S. Plans to Renew the Nuclear Deal

June 11 2021

This week, after the International Atomic Energy Agency announced its suspicions that the Islamic Republic is hiding nuclear materials from its inspectors, the White House decided to lift some sanctions on Iranian oil, and still plans to forge ahead with nuclear negotiations. Meanwhile, Iran will hold its presidential elections next week. The exercise is not particularly democratic—the supreme leader approves the candidates in advance, and his minions have from time to time fixed the results—but neither is it entirely meaningless. While there are important differences among the candidates, not one can be dubbed a moderate, even by the standards of this brutal Islamist theocracy. Reuel Marc Gerecht explains why this matters:

With an Iranian “moderate” as president, President Biden surely would have athletically advanced again Barack Obama’s engagement arguments. To wit: the atomic accord reinforces Iranian softliners; tens of billions of dollars released to Tehran plus the promise of billions more in foreign investment attenuate the regime’s radicalism. Then-President Obama didn’t really mind Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei extorting the West, which is what the nuclear negotiations have been about, . . . since engagement would fundamentally change how the Islamic Republic acted. . . . With Ebrahim Raisi, Khamenei’s preferred candidate for president, this approach becomes harder to do with a straight face.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will be uncomfortable with Raisi as president. . . . Though Raisi’s villainy has many hallmarks, his most notorious actions surround the 1988 slaughter of political prisoners, some of whom were children. . . . With Raisi as president, the White House will have a challenging time portraying a reanimated atomic accord as something other than an extortionate transaction with wicked Islamists who are blatant about their principal hatreds (America, Jews, Israel, and Western culture).

Yet even if Raisi’s election makes it harder for the White House to sell a renewed nuclear deal, Gerecht has little doubt that it will forge ahead. But, he writes, there remains “a big wild card” for the Biden administration:

Unless the clerical regime’s demands make it impossible for Biden to return to the [2015 nuclear deal]—that is, Khamenei won’t let Biden surrender—Israel is the country most likely to scotch the administration’s hopes. Israeli opposition to the nuclear deal is much deeper and broader today than it was in 2015, when most Israelis found it seriously wanting. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s in-your-face efforts to get Congress and the American people to array against it didn’t please a lot of Israelis at the time; it’s a good bet that today far fewer view those efforts negatively.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Ali Khamenei, Barack Obama, Iran nuclear program, Joseph Biden


The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy